Since March, most local, national, and international performing arts organizations have found themselves in a state of limbo about when and how live performance in front of an audience would begin again.
Houston theater companies have endured much behind-the-scenes dramas as they've shuffled and reshuffled their seasons lineup. Now, more plans are afoot to bring Houston audiences live theater at home and back on stage.
So let’s take a midsummer check in at the latest theater news for the fall. We even have a few theatrical virtual treats for this stay at home sizzling July and August.
The latest and biggest news comes from Stages who hopes to continue their tradition of eclectic seasons with a new mix of theatrical modes. They plan to debut online summer shows and then works with smaller casts in the fall when audiences might be ready to head back to the Gordy. While the 2021 winter/spring offerings remain mostly the same for the second half of their season, the rest of 2020 brings innovative changes.
First up, Pieces of the Moon (July 20-August 2). What was to be a world premiere co-production from One Year Lease Theater Company in New York about the Apollo 11 moon landing, now becomes a world premiere radio play available for streaming. Stages and OYL partnered once before for Balls the highly-choreographed, kinetic feast for the eyes about the Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs tennis match, so we’re intrigued by how they’ll once again tackle history but for an auditory audience this time.
Later in the summer, Sensitive Guys (August 13-23), the production that had to be shelved right before its debut back in March gets new performance life as a streaming Zoom production. The five women all playing college men will now act practice a bit of stay at home acting to create together this satire on gender roles and collegial life.
The last of the planned (for now) streaming performances comes with the one-woman show starring Stages fave, Sally Edmundson, in Woman of the World (September 10-20) about journalist, naturalist, and woman before her time, Mabel Loomis Todd.
Stages hopes to be ready to bring audiences back to the newly opened Gordy with the return of Honky Tonk Laundry in October. The feel good music that probably just came out of the fluff cycle had to close after only a week in March and might be the fun welcome-back for those ready to join a live audience again.
The other major change Stages has made for the 2019 half of their new season is to the holiday shows. Instead of their previously announced Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical, the company will bring back married artist duo Ben Hope and Katie Barton, who created the popular Ring of Fire. They created and star in Holidays at the Hope’s (November 13-December 27), a musical inspired by their real life adventures buying their first house. Meanwhile, the planned revised version of the very first Stages’ original Texas Panto show, Panto Sleeping Beauty, gets a revision to the revision and becomes the world premiere one-man musical, Buttons’ Sleeping Beauty: A One-Man Outrageous Unbelievable COVID Lockdown Panto! (November 27-December 27).
The final, or at least final so far, addition to the season comes in January with a Stages rendering of the Broadway smash Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (January 29-March 7) and its portrayal of one of Billie Holiday’s final performances.
Broadway at the Hobby Center
With the announcement that a darken Broadway would continue to keep the lights off until January 2021, we expected that the huge touring production would likely be grounded for a time, as well. Confirmation came recently with the announcement that My Fair Lady and Blue Man Group Speechless tour, the first two shows of the Broadway at Hobby 2020-2021 season, would get pushed into next year.
While no productions have been cut from the lineup, the new season doesn’t officially begin until January 5 with Tootsie. Most of the remaining winter and spring shows stick near the same runs with To Kill a Mocking Bird (February 23-28), Mean Girls (March 16-21), Jesus Christ Superstar (May 11-16) and Hadestown (June 8-13) maintaining their original dates. Now Blue Man Group gets slotted in for January 22-24 and My Fair Lady ends the season in very late summer style (September 14-19).
As CultureMap earlier reported, Theatre Under the Stars also moved the new gender-inclusive revival of 1776 set for Broadway and their own production of Rock of Ages to summer 2021, so look for the lights to always be bright at the Hobby Center next year.
Miller Outdoor Theatre
The beloved theater on the hill announced early Monday, July 13 that all shows are cancelled through August. Miller released this statement:
Due to the pandemic and current restrictions on gatherings and crowd size, we have made the decision to cancel all performances through the end of August.
It breaks our hearts to announce more cancellations. We are working to identify new dates for all those companies that are able to move to later dates this season and hope we can begin performances in September.
These decisions have not been easy to make and we appreciate your continued support through these trying times.
Stay safe, stay healthy and we can't wait to meet you on the Hill again.
It would hardly be summer in Houston without a big new musical from Catastrophic. For twenty years, and only a few exceptions, the warped, weird, and wonderful mind of Catastrophic co-founder, Tamarie Cooper has delivered a brand new bawdy, vaguely avant garde vaudevillian Houston-centric musical extravaganza. From elections to big birthdays to bigger regrets and the holidays, Cooper has tackled the best and worst of times. Obviously, a little thing like a global pandemic won’t stop her and her band of the Catastrophic regulars. Get set for the three-part, streaming world premiere, Tamarie Cooper’s 2020: Quarantine Edition! Beginning July 31, expect satire, songs, and jazz hands.
New American Voices Playwriting Festival
The nationally renowned reading festival from Houston’s own Landing Theatre Company goes virtual this year. The four new works from Amy Berryman, John Minigan, Angela J. Davis and Kirby Fields were selected from 550 submissions from around the country. Local actors (distancing) bring the scripts to live, giving at-home audiences a preview of some original new voices in theater. The festival also includes workshops featuring award winning national and Texas playwrights, directors, and theater artists.
Strange Bird Immersive
While indoor social distancing practices have made traditional theater difficult to manage, immersive theater has struggled with even bigger challenges. Houston’s Strange Bird local company that made quite a success for itself combining the immersive theater and escape room experiences together, has hit upon a unique means of escaping the metaphorical straight jacket of theatrical distancing. The mysterious and alluring Madame Daphne from their award-winning show The Man From Beyond will now do Zoom tarot card reading sessions, bringing a bit of the immersive experience into your home.